I wake on Easter morning, feeling stuffed. For the past three days I’ve been feasting – not on food but on sights and sounds, symbols and songs.
Thursday – bread broken and shared, people bending to wash the feet of others, the communal Body of Christ kneeling to adore and keep watch with the Eucharistic Body of Christ.
Friday — the ancient chants and muted hymns, the long and reverent line shuffling toward the front of church to kiss the wooden cross, the prayers that enfold the whole world’s pain.
Saturday — a candle’s flame that spreads through the dark church like wildfire, the glow on the faces of the newly baptized, water dripping on everyone’s heads, bells and incense and the intoxicating scent of lilies, Alleluias sung in every key.
It’s too much to take in at once.
But that’s the point of Easter, isn’t it? Too much for Mary Magdalen and the women who came to anoint Jesus’ body. Too much for Peter and John to wrap their heads and hearts around. Too much for all the disciples, whom the Gospel writers describe as “seized with trembling and bewilderment” (Mark 16:8), “puzzling” and “terrified” (Luke 24: 4,5), “fearful yet overjoyed” (Matthew 28:8).
Too much for us, too. Life beyond death? Risen life that begins now? A new way of living, where no one knows want? What can this possibly mean?
Easter shakes the ground on which we’re comfortable. It stretches our imaginations beyond what we ever thought possible.
In the days ahead, if we find ourselves wrestling with the too-much-ness of Easter, the risen Christ invites us to watch him, listen to him, closely. If we do, we’ll see what one writer calls his “telltale signature of abundance,” painted in one Gospel reading after another. Christ pours out gifts upon gifts: peace, healing, confidence, joy, energy, light, freedom. These Easter gifts are real, tangible, lasting. He gives them to us here and now, just as he gave them to his first followers.
All we have to do is open ourselves to receive the incredible abundance of it all. And be grateful.
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Pray with the words of Tom Kendzia’s Easter hymn, “Out of Darkness”:
Refrain: Out of darkness the light of Christ will shine,
As the dawn of day breaks through the night;
Then the poor and oppressed will cry out and be heard
By the Light that rises from the night.
Let the darkness flee from here, put an end to sadness and fear.
The hungry will eat, the sick will dance, the dead will rise again.
This is the night, O Holy of Nights, the chains of death are destroyed.
This is the night, the glory of God is raised to life again.
© “Out of Darkness,” 2006, Tom Kendzia. Published by OCP. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission under License #612087, LicenSingOnline.
–Sr. Regina Bechtle
Sr. Regina, a retreat leader, speaker, writer and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.
Artwork: Mary Magdalene announces the resurrection to the disciples. Sr. Margaret Beaudette, 2015.